As the movement to legalize recreational marijuana gains popularity in Illinois, State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) heard testimony addressing best practices for regulation and taxation on Wednesday, April 19 from experts around the country. This hearing was the first in a series that will address the wide variety of concerns regarding their legislation that would allow Illinois residents to possess up to 28 grams of marijuana and purchase marijuana products at licensed and regulated facilities.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Steans said. “Taxing legalized recreational marijuana would have a huge impact on the state both in the form of new revenue and in job creation. Last year alone, 18,000 jobs were created in Colorado due to the marijuana industry.”
Karmen Hanson from the National Conference of State Legislatures explained the process of implementing a tax structure and regulations in states that have already legalized recreational marijuana during her testimony. In the past year, Colorado has received nearly $200 million in revenue from the tax generated through over $1 billion in marijuana sales.
“Hearing about the experiences of policymakers who worked through the issues that appeared during the process of legalizing marijuana in other states will help us create a plan that will proactively address these concerns,” Cassidy said. “Our state desperately needs the revenue that would be brought in by the taxation of cannabis, so I look forward to continuing the conversation in the coming months.”
The legislation will include a number of public safety and regulatory measures. Driving under the influence of marijuana would remain illegal, and strict rules would ensure marijuana products would not be accessible to people under 21. Smoking marijuana in public would also be prohibited.
“Colorado takes its responsibility to regulate marijuana very seriously,” Barbara Brohl, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue said. “Tax revenue and license fees fund our regulatory costs as well as allows the state to address some social consequences of use that otherwise might be difficult to address. We remain proactive in our regulatory approach, and work very closely with all of our stakeholders to carefully balance public safety and burden on the industry, which ensures that as issues arise we can address them quickly and flexibly.”
The sponsors plan to hold additional subject matter hearings throughout the spring to hear from other individuals and organizations.